Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hold Page One: Woman Earns Money With Blog

My friends at Amazon had a surprise for me today, the reward for belonging to their associates program and linking mentions of books, mostly, in my blog to their products.

I have an Amazon credit for $1.63. As this is a cool $1.63 more than I had when I sat down at the computer, I really do consider myself ahead. I am not being sarcastic. My blog, or my blogging, has, against all odds, earned income.

In my world, things stand-in for other things. My vibrational frequency is metaphor, sign and symbol. A dollar sixty-three today, tomorrow...ten thousand.

Everything around me that works the way it is supposed to, or better, is a gift. Anything that one would like more of that becomes more is a gift...a new blog follower (there should be tokens of appreciation), a hidden box of erasers to carve, an Amazon greeting and gift card.

A family friend claimed there was money for her in the desert and every time we met at the edge of nowhere, shared our picnics in the sand and reconnoitered the area, damn if she didn't find at least $20 caught on the only shrub in sight.

Unless we've traded our wits for reality tv shows, we have the ability to recognize patterns. Jackie noticed the desert wind blew cash in her direction. That Amazon email with the bright subject line may be more about a perceived assurance that the good does come, in the forms and increments it chooses, than about quantity or substance.

Increase is increase. I am patient. This will do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Choose your own adventure

Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.
Junichiro Tanizaki

Without shame, I have hijacked Susan T. Landry's idea of shadow visuals for my own, not-clearly-thought-through purposes.

Anthony Pham's copyrighted photo of a polarized filter casting a shadow heart.

Shadows and the sense of weather leaning in with too much weight; a drunken suitor, a tense salesman short of his quota. Today it all seems to be symbol and metaphor. Projections and predictions.

And a heart-shaped shadow, cast by an object nothing like it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

So THAT'S where that went...

Happiness can come from anywhere. A scrap of paper for scribbling something important is priceless at the right moment. Finding what I hadn't known was missing makes me feel abundant.

Color pencils are my favorite art tool, tied for first place with very fine point, permanent black pens, like Sakura Micron .005. They work well together. Yesterday, involved in the virtuous activity of trying to reclaim my life and indoor space from the brambles and nettles that had taken over, exiling me to a dusty corner, I discovered the box of shrink art pin leftovers also had clutches of color pencils. So that's where all the shades of brown went. No wonder I could never find the Peacock Green.

Depression, a life-long condition, can foster a specific sort of amnesia. We forget who we are, we forget what simple pleasures make us happy, we lose track of accomplishments or endurances and undervalue the challenging voyage we seem to have been shanghaied into. I am not complaining. Nor am I, to the best of my knowledge, depressed now or even in the recent past. I'm just saying...Actually, I'm expressing thanks for illumination, the wind that lifted amnesia's veil and reminded me about a body of work done with color pencils, though it is dispersed across continents and few of its components reside with me. But the tools still do: both the color pencils and the rubber stamps they brought to life.

If our history is tucked away in boxes, we (of a certain age) may forget some of the good parts. As I related the find of the pencils, the illustrated pins, to a wise friend, she suggested I assemble my rubber stamp catalog and line the 400+ images across a table top. We have a built-in buffet cabinet in the dining room that would serve well. Without visible evidence, I allow myself to assume that I have been absent-mindedly twisting my hair around my finger for the past 17 years, even though I have increased my stamp lines in this century, if not this decade...yet.

What I mean to say is that if I can find myself to be richer in much of what matters than I thought, the same is very possibly true for you. At the risk of sounding like a new-age sap, I confess to keeping, from time to time, a journal of gratitude. Daily, I speak out loud appreciation for the gifts of my life. As my reclamation project chugs along, I add to the list.

There is nothing too small to be acknowledged when it comes to being thankful. In fact, there is nothing small when it comes to good. Seeming evidence to the contrary, I have not become the old desert rat who buried her treasures in abandoned mine shafts or under anonymous boulders, then lost the map she drew so she could go back and dig them up. Part of me always knows where they are, it is just that the other part remembers so inefficiently.

Photo from GOOD fences make good neighbors.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hatches battened: check

For today, perhaps the next few days, what I want is to wish safety to friends and family in the path of Hurricane Irene. I know you are all wise, will be careful and take whatever precautions you need to. How odd it is/will be in New York with no transportation, no Broadway, no anything, from the sound of it. I can only imagine.

As the politicians are saying, Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Be well. We in other regions are thinking of you with great affection. xo

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Once again I am unsettled by this pesky, seemingly unbreakable habit, thinking about life and wondering of what is it made. Yesterday I knew it wasn't bricks...too large and solid. Legos, especially those 1x1 tiles, would provide a long and either tedious or enjoyable trajectory of construction, similar to building a human existence.

Then I discovered Stan Munro, architect and mayor of Toothpick City.

Photo, with thanks to Solent News and Photo Agency, art by Stan Munro.

We, I will say we though my only point of reference is I, wish to see the sturdy, not wobbling towers of our lives rising floor by floor, milestones one atop the other, the random setback appearing only as a few dropped stitches in the sweater's design. The key phrase is "wish to see."

Some scientists have come to believe the pyramids were built, not from stones but from composite material, molded in place as the tombs grew. The matter is still in dispute. Regardless, we, our own monuments to genealogy, family folklore, DNA, experience and imagination, while Wonders of the World by some standards, were not fashioned from rocks of mythic proportion. When I peer, squinting, at my personal timeline, my strata, with periodic scrapings transferred to specimen ziplocks, I find the structure is pure toothpick, growth often imperceptible.

As I experience it, more so as I pay better attention, life evolves one thought, one seed, one moment at a time. With his painstaking, scaled-down recreation of temples, skyscrapers and sailing ships, Mr. Munro reveals a parallel universe in which the process is more easily understood. Slivers, slender renderings from birch logs and glue, lots and lots of is a day's work, day after day.

There it is: life is a daily, hourly, one-second-to-the-next business. It is our choice whether we approach it with quivering eagerness, apathy or dread. I have begun to see my questions as answers; allowing them to remain questions is pointless. I have actually, and against all expectations, fallen in love with the Mystery.

Before sleep each night, I peel the metaphoric glue from my fingers, check to be sure stray toothpicks aren't stuck to the soles of my feet. Mr. Munro is able to see his progress as the Taj Mahal, the Chrysler Building, grow beneath his hands. The rest of us are left to faith, that what we have wrought invisibly will stand. When I wake, I trust the day will sweep in, tide-like, my next assignment in a secret language spelled by its foam.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

by John Singer Sargent. The Tate Gallery, London. Purchased from the artist, 1887.

Paper lanterns, whether illuminated by candle or bulb, cast my favorite light.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And the President said, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Intro theme song by John Boutte (accent on the "e")

We just finished watching season one of the HBO series, Treme on DVDs from Netflix. The title is pronounced treh'may. On cable, the second season has finished, its ETA on DVD unknown. The story is set in New Orleans some six-months after Hurricane Katrina, beginning shortly before Mardi Gras. I have never been there but my heart broke then and I found that it is a long way from healed these several years later.

Trying hard for no spoilers, what I can say is: music, family, food, music, tradition, injustice.

Indifference as a life theme recently insinuated itself into my consciousness. We do, shockingly, perpetuate what we know. That is a flaccid segue to my continuing, reignited, fury at the response of government on every level to the catastrophe in Louisiana. We do not even possess instruments to measure a system's indifference to the city and people of New Orleans in Katrina's wake.

The show was recommended by a friend, kindred spirit and also great fan of The Wire, whose creators are responsible for Treme. When Angella shared her recent NO visits in narrative and photos, I hadn't seen all the episodes. I didn't know what was coming nor how I would weep. By the way, the link will take you to one day's post but if you go to the her main blog address and scroll down, you will find others, as well as additional subjects worth exploring.

I, in turn, recommend the show, which gathers force over time. Throughout, the music and musician characters seem to be surrogates for the place itself, which stands outside time, tragedy and bureaucracy in some respects. Mythic and misbegotten. The sound becomes richer with each episode, the stories deepen and darken. I soon recanted my wish for some unspecified sad fate to be visited upon Steve Zahn's scruffy DJ, Davis.

In other posts, I've said I am not a reviewer. When something get hold of me, I'll tell you about it. What's not to love about a show with all that brass? The trombone has as substantial a part as some of the actors.

The season's final episode includes an extended sequence of mourners taking part in the second line behind musicians who play - I could not find a comparable version on You Tube - "I'll Fly Away." But over the closing credits, Steve Earle, who appears in the series, sings "This City," composed for Treme.

Apropos of nothing I can point to, this quote turned up in my email today. It may become my mantra.

"Rilke said it best. 'We must assume our existence as broadly as we
in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of must be possible in
it. This is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to
have courage for the most strange, the most inexplicable.'"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Community theater

In The Real West Marginal Way: A Poet's Autobiography, Richard Hugo wrote:

"I often found the sources of poems in the lonely reaches of the world, the ignored, forlorn, and, to me, beautiful districts of cities, like the West Marginal Way area in Seattle, the sad small towns of Washington and Montana, the villages and countryside of Southern Italy, wherever I imagined life being lived as amateurishly as we had once played basketball."

Until reading that, I have never considered life being lived amateurishly and immediately thought, how else could we do it? Let me rephrase that. How else could I do it?

My best guess is that I have not been here before and if I had it was not in this form, not with this particular set of variables. Hugo's words help support my belief that (and I will keep this in the first person) I make it up as I go along. Each moment calls for the weighing of possibilities and options. I am able to make some choices based on past experience, prior knowledge, but the present, no matter how accurately it mirrors another time, remains unexplored territory.

Amateur. Of course. And with that status comes a forgiveness for blunders and missed cues. I interpret Hugo's phrase to mean he believes or imagines there are places, not his lonely reaches, where life is conducted more professionally, full of style, grace, aplomb, never a false step, never a wrong fork. I assumed, though may not any more, there were teeming islands of sophistication and insider coaching where life skills were honed and graduates set on a path of sure success. All steps firm and certain.

But that is simply polish, a sheen, a veneer. Etiquette is no preparation for crises of the soul. If you listen closely, as we watch those who promise us they have it all figured out, the sound you hear, and I'd know it anywhere, is whistling in the dark. I'm not convinced that any of us know how to do this.

To live the uncertainty without wailing, flailing, slobbering and needless drama is an art; some have an intuitive knack, may have managed to acquire a modicum of skill or restraint. Still, whatever the situation, we are probably all first-timers. The ragged, messy imperfection of honesty appeals to me so much more than false insistence of rightness.

In a long-ago life, married to the managing editor of a small town newspaper, I attended - front-row center - most community theater productions. Yes, from those seats I could see faint make-up smudges on the costumes. At times the dancing was more enthusiastic than precise, but like the earnest cast and director of Waiting for Guffman, heart transcended training.

I realize as I inexpertly tap-dance my brains out in what Mary Oliver calls " one wild and precious life," that amateurishly is my adverb, my level, my speed, my truth. Remember in The Avengers how they referred to Emma Peel as "a talented amateur?" I can only aspire.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The verb, to unknow

List of some things I don’t know how to do:

Fly an airplane
Kung fu
Repair a car
Compose music

And I don't know how to unknow dark somethings once I know them.

It has taken me at least a month to write of this. The idea came from a tropically large bug, a singleton who shall remain nameless, seen and dealt with by my son - and not by me - in my room immediately before I planned to fall asleep. Of course I was no longer sleepy. Of course I left the television and the reading light on and imagined stealthy guerrillas from its bug clan invading my sanctuary and my peace. Two evenings later I was finally able to sleep with the light off, but now turn it on if I have to get up during the night. No barefoot surprises, thank you.

Once I knew it had been there, nothing was quite the same. It could have been a recluse, a hermit in some dim corner for weeks (though not likely) that only began to plague me once it revealed itself. Bob Seger wrote, “...wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” Boy howdy.

Other unwelcome knowings have been imposed upon me over a lifetime. Some were too first-person to evade. Others were blurted for another’s unburdening. They change everything. That they existed sub rosa while I pirouetted through my days with innocent trust makes their revelations all the more shocking. And there is no going back.

Denial is, I suppose, the popular response to unmanageable information, pretending, playing ignorant. That lid won’t stay closed for long. There can never really be enough of any substance to keep truth fully hidden once it is glimpsed leering through the window. Our hearts no longer beat with the same familiar rhythm. We grow haunted, our notion of safety shattered. We dream of taking the secret and casting it into the flames, anything to be free of its curse.

Our best hope is forgetting, or a form of it that permits a dimming of impact. Spiritual teachers express the belief that what has passed may be surrendered, leave and gnaw on me no more. Many of our adaptive skills result from having to invent ways to keep moving forward when the first choice would be to sit, weeping, until we turned to dust, to grit, which the wind would take.

Dark knowings embezzle from our stores of sleep, of serenity, of trust. Some are thugs and thieves, smacking us around and running off with our valuables. We are left trying to put the pieces together, wondering who we can call. I need to report a crime.

All this from one anonymous bug, who thought, if bugs think, that it would make its way from this shadow to that, remain unobserved a bit longer, live to scurry another day. Instead it became my reminder of spaces we have to clear when the uninvited decide to visit, the processes we learn to keep from tipping over. If any of you composing, airplane-flying kung fu master mechanics can tell me how to make knowing less grief-filled, I believe I am ready to learn.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An unattractive dependence

...and then the modem expired.

That was late Sunday morning. It is now Wednesday. I await the imperfectly-executed, no-longer-express delivery of a replacement modem and reflect upon my life before a reasonably high-speed internet connection.

For a Monday writing job with the general theme of discovery, I wanted to be certain the man who located King Tut’s tomb was Howard Carter, but couldn’t look it up. I might have phoned someone in whose world Google was alive and helpful; instead I made my best guess. Then I phoned in the article, just like the old days.

There is no need to list the ways I felt adrift without this seemingly essential link to the wider world; you all know the discomfort. We were dial-up people well past the year when that became outre. Dependence crept up on us like the pounds from putting cheese on everything.

When you read this, you’ll know we are restored to our medium-tech complacency. The pathways of commerce and communication are freshly wired. We can resume research, locate photos and pile, with abandon, multiple items in shopping carts as long as we don’t actually order them. I could never have imagined so many possibilities.

My impatience now embarrasses me, grumbling about a trivial inconvenience, about being deprived of something that did not exist such a short while ago and whose absence or presence, in honesty, does not affect our livelihoods. Too many on the planet are without food and water. The sobering effects of perspective don’t allow much room for squirming.

My vocabulary contains a mocking gauge for self-absorbed disaster: my hair didn’t turn out in the back. It refers to a form of teen angst long extinct, or so I hope. Under harsh light, many concerns become equally adolescent. In metaphor, the solution is the same. Put on a hat and go anyway. This, too, will pass.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blog turns three

My thanks to justjennrecipes who shared King's Hawaiian Paradise Cake with us.

Though it is, without question, an extension - or at least an expression - of self, this blog seems to be its own creature. It is an entity. If I were a gardener, I don't suppose I'd think of my garden as part of me but rather something of which I was a steward. Whether it flourished or withered would depend on me. From either perspective, the blog began three years ago today. August 7, 2008. How unfortunate that the word blog sounds so much like blob. I would probably celebrate The Blob's birthday, if I oversaw its development.

For everyone who has ever read a sentence here, thank you. I would like to know you better, to have an opportunity for exchange, yet am grateful if you find something here that has ever caused you to return. To those who volunteered as followers, to those who comment, thank you. Through the words you leave for me, what may appear to be typed letters on a flat screen have, in garden fashion, bloomed into connections, friendships, an awareness of and caring for you, your passions, your well-being.

As an aspect of what I will call senior awareness, I have learned that consistency challenges me. At times, being reliable is a struggle. These are not character traits with which I am happy; they are vexing, to say the least, to whatever parts of me do meet deadlines and keep commitments. That I, and my blog sidekick, have managed to show up here for three years, following a slow and spotty beginning, gives me hope that I can build and sustain a less mercurial identity.

There is a trajectory to this blogging life, one that has the feel of gathering momentum for a destination unknown. The word grace comes closest to naming the wondrous - and free - vehicle I have been given to carry me and my thoughts out into the world. That many of you choose to pile on board and ride back with me exceeds my deepest hopes.

Now, about that Paradise Cake. Blog and I are fools for whipped cream.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

After the light

The fog is here this morning. No sunbeam had a chance at 7 a.m. After the fact, I'm even more grateful to have seen the glowing band I wrote of on Monday. As the week, possibly the month, set about revealing their distinctive characteristics, a finger of light pointing to my neglected studio (thoughts of Indiana Jones in the Well of Souls...I make no apologies) seemed to be an even stronger push than I'd first thought.

My life is moments. Some stand alone as though in soliloquy, a scene from OUR TOWN. Others attach themselves to similar events and form a chain. All have meaning, if only to say be, or be here, try to learn the secret of not squandering any part of now. Among the parcels that arrived with the sun-sent message is an awfully large serving of very old business and its near-death grip on a portion of my spirit, trying to defend its spurious claim on me like the fool who decides to be his own lawyer.

That fairy tales might be teachers is a recent awareness. Some of us fell asleep long ago, the briars grew thick and choked off knowing, presence, participation. We wake up, if we are fortunate, as soon as we can but need a bit longer to gain our bearings, then additional time to grieve for what we lost or missed while under the malignant spell. I keep thinking the hard work has been done and I keep being surprised. This may be a day to reread some Joseph Campbell and remind myself how the hero does survive the journey.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ill winds and other forces

Telling the story backward, here is the outcome, followed by the events which led to it.

LIBRARY by Lori Nix

During my years of network television employment, Let's Make A Deal was taped in the studio building across from my office. People dressed as servings of french fries lined up with the hope of getting to choose among doors 1, 2 or 3. Because I've learned that most days tell me what they will become, I remain watchful, alert, to the way one plan quickly reconfigures as another. I pick the first door and the third one opens and there you have it.

The early morning - by my definition, 7 is early - text from the bank warned me of something stupid and messy. In preparation for our government's potential abdication of all fiscal responsibility - the threat of unpaid military salaries, Social Security benefits and the like - our apartment manager had deposited the rent check with horrifying swiftness and our already iffy house of cards had become a vortex of slippage.

To entertain and perhaps calm my mental/emotional turmoil as the bank debated whether or not to pay outstanding debits before funds arrived on Wednesday, I thought of my childhood model of financial abundance, Scrooge McDuck. Diving into his pile of money, he could headline my carping blog post. Through Google I found an image which, when I clicked on it, took me, with awareness that providence had stepped in, to artist Lori Nix, who constructs miniature dioramas for the purpose of photographing them. As she explains in this link, the photographs, the two-dimensional pieces, are the art; the dioramas are the vehicles which carry her there.

Lori Nix saved me from whining. She and her recreated scenes of Kansas disasters from her childhood restored me to center. Whatever the actual cause of what seemed like the ill wind of August, it no longer mattered. It will either be resolved in my favor or it won't. Irene at the bank was kind and helpful.

Here is what I know right now: all is not as it feels, appears or claims to be. The layers of possibility have been patiently and skillfully applied. Don't be fooled by the obvious. What is real is as subtle as the wafted hint of night-blooming jasmine. I thought the plant had died, yet there was its gift as the thinning fog drifted in. We stumble on in the midst of magic. Stardust, indeed.

Monday, August 1, 2011


If I circle today's date on the calendar, I will need to write myself a note as to why.

For several weeks our mornings have been foggy or, as yesterday, clouded with what local weather gurus call monsoonal flow. It is tropical air with a penchant for turbulence that is pushed and pulled our way from Mexico thanks to a clockwise swirl of high pressure somewhere over, roughly, Colorado. Today the sky was clear.

What clarity brought was an awareness of the sun's shift. And an illumination that I would like to remember and, if I remember, track for no reason at all. Our simple interior geography features one window on the apartment's east end, a smallish slider in the bathroom wall. Today, at about 7:30, undimmed by pebbled glass since the window was open for breeze and sky, a band of sunlight spilled across the bathroom floor, ran the length of the hall, through the living room and up the west wall next to a bookcase. Now, a bit after 8, the band remains though its earlier brilliance is diluted.

We have lived here for more than nine years and somehow I never noticed this glowing phenomenon before. By paying attention for the next few days, assuming fog and clouds don't return, I can observe how long all the elements align to make this happen. I can be easily amused and light attracts me above most things, especially light that streaks all in its path with golden warmth.

To find newness where all was assumed to be the same, day upon day, makes me feel alert, aware. It is cheering to discover one's wits have not been so dulled that an electric swath of August sun across the carpet went unnoticed. I have no excuse for all those previous years.

Assume that one was waiting for the light, for a sign, a pointer, a path. There is now a circle on the calendar to say, wait no more. It is here.